Home for the Holidays

December 23, 2014 at 10:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Maybe I’ll even have some home alone time while I’m there!

I get to go home tomorrow!  And spend five nights enjoying friends, family, fun and tons and tons of food.  Whatever you do this week, I hope you and your loved ones enjoy yourselves and have a safe and wonderful holiday and New Year!

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‘Tis the Season

December 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

This is the first year in all of my years that I attended a holiday work party. I’ve had many jobs during the course of my lifetime but the only one that ever did anything for the holidays was when I worked with young kids in college and that was with all of said kids anyway. The whole get-drunk-and-eat-food-on-the-company’s-dime thing seemed to me a thing of myths and dreams. Hell, last year the firm I was working for was sued and filed bankruptcy the Friday before Christmas so there was obviously no celebrating going on over there. This year, everything’s different!

My current firm had a company-wide holiday party at the ballroom of a fancy-schmancy hotel down the street a couple of weeks ago. There are something like 1,000 people who work here so it was a pretty big event, complete with multiple buffet tables, open bar and even kids singing Christmas carols in the halls. They served all kinds of seafood and meats in addition to a table of Mexican fare, a ton of pasta and individual flatbread pizzas. There were also tables full of different kinds of dessert and like I mentioned, the open bar. Open bar! Yeah, the whole thing was pretty awesome.

Sadly, they didn’t serve any goat cheese.

THEN I realized that my department has their own holiday party as well. So last week those I work with more directly were treated to another night of free food and booze, this time at The Girl and the Goat. This is a super-trendy restaurant in Chicago that’s owned and operated by Stephanie Izard, who I think won the first season of Top Chef. She was there bossing her crew around as they hustled out the food and beverages, which were aplenty. Unfortunately, much of the menu revolves around meat (yes, including goat) so my options were a little limited. However, the salad, bread and cauliflower dish I had were all amazing and I absolutely got seconds. And if I’m going to be honest, I had more than seconds on the drinks!

On top of all that – the administrative assistants had a catered lunch from some completely delicious Italian place today. And apparently our bosses are very generous during this time of the year – I put together little “Cajun Care Packages” for all of those I work for, which consisted of roasted pecans that were grown, shelled and bagged in the Louisiana town where my dad’s family lives, plus some hot sauces and seasonings. Not much, but a little something. I really don’t care if my bosses get me anything in return but I’ve had a few hints that they will, which is super generous, thoughtful and appreciated. And yesterday, a guy I only semi-work for took me and another admin out to lunch and gave me a gift certificate for a massage. I mean, who wouldn’t love that?

Sure beats getting a pink slip and becoming unemployed, that’s for damn sure!

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Roll with It

December 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The City of Chicago just opened a new skateboarding park (not to be confused with the new Maggie Daley park featuring an ice skating area) which happens to be on my walk to the Field Museum.  I’ve watched this former large grassy knoll as it’s undergone construction for the last eight or so months and went I went into the museum for my shift two Saturdays ago, I noticed it looked damn near complete.  Which apparently it was because on my walk home that afternoon I was surprised to see all of the fencing and construction materials removed with dozens of young, unwashed boys in their places.  The skate park had officially opened!

Now imagine hoards of teenagers.

It looks pretty nice to me but then again I don’t skate on anything other than thin ice so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. However, there were tons of teenagers hanging around so I can only assume it was a halfway decent place to practice on a half-pipe. Full disclaimer, I only know what a half-pipe is because when I was in high school there was some popular song about Jesus hitting a bong and a half-pipe someplace in heaven. Anyway, it’s cool to see the city embracing the fact that kids are going to be kids and providing them a place to fulfill their skating needs. Also – not all of the people there were kids and I definitely saw some guys and gals who were close to my own age perusing the newly opened area.

Scott has an old skateboard in our basement storage unit and I contemplated grabbing it and taking a ride on the new concrete but then I remembered I can barely walk straight while stone sober so I decided to stick with watching from afar. Besides, I imagine the closer I get to the masses the more it’ll smell like sweaty, teenage boy and that’s something I can certainly do without.

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The Holiday Train

December 10, 2014 at 9:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Look what I saw today!

The big guy himself!

The big guy himself!

In case you can’t tell, that’s the annual Chicago Transit Authority Holiday train. It features train cars entirely decked out in lights and decorations, Christmas music and of course, Santa and his elves on an open platform, where they great all the commuters who are fortunate enough to have caught this notorious ride. The first time I ever saw it was the first and only time I’ve been aboard but I encountered it last year and again tonight. It puts a smile on everyone’s faces and definitely helps to ring in the holiday season, so thanks to the CTA for my early Christmas present!

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December 8, 2014 at 9:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The week before Thanksgiving, Scott’s sister and her boyfriend threw a little shin-dig at their place out in the suburbs.  His sister wanted to have a craft beer tasting especially since her bf was preparing to open a keg that he and his twin brother had brewed themselves. So the event was created and everyone was asked to bring a few of their favorite craft beers to share – when I received the invite,  I was expecting a general swapping atmosphere where we all just grabbed each other’s brews from the fridge but I was totally wrong about that. Scott’s sister had a legit tasting going on.  She’s an amazing hostess so I don’t know why I was surprised by her set-up but I was. Or maybe impressed. Or jealous because I don’t have any fancy serving platters or ice buckets. Whatever, she had a great spread set that we all totally enjoyed!

Beer me!

Beer me!

To be honest, I’m not much of a beer drinker in these colder months. I prefer red wine to just about anything else in the wintertime but I made an exception so I could imbibe in all of these fancy craft beers and it was worth it. That said, his sister did have wine and a cocktail of her own creation readily available (told you she was a good hostess) and of course there were tons of pub-worthy snacks all around. This includes popcorn and pretzels busting out of the cardboard six-pack holders in an artful yet tasty display, something which I doubt I could have come up with if I had all the beer in the world to get my creative juices flowing.

It was a lot of fun and we’ve already started brainstorming other holidays she can turn into beer related events (my suggestion: Beerster around Easter – clever, I know). Also, the keg that was tapped by her bf was surprisingly tasty and if I’m lucky I’ll get a bottle of that for Christmas. She had so many people at the party (and so many from out of town) that many of the guests crashed on her living room floor at the end of the night. Scott and I just went back to our place because we’re too old for that shit. Besides, how could I possibly end such a fancy grown-up beer tasting party in such a college-esque way? Of course, if they had had a beer bong out things may have ended differently but then again bonging craft beer doesn’t like the wisest decision either. I guess this is what growing up is all about!

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Ashes to Ashes

December 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

As I mentioned in my previous post, while I was in Louisiana for Thanksgiving I went to New Orleans for a day with my cousins. We wanted to branch out and do something we’d never done there before and when we came across the carriage tours of the French Quarter we figured that would work. Then we saw one of the carriages also went through the historic St. Louis Cemetery and we got REALLY excited. Our guide was thoroughly entertaining and knew his stuff so we got a history lesson during the hour-long ride, which absolutely thrilled the nerd in all of us. We passed by some landmarks and old, important buildings on our way to the cemetery, which is a place I’ve been wanting to explore for years. In case you didn’t know, the cemeteries in New Orleans are all above ground because the water level is so high that they can’t dig six feet underground without eventually having coffins and bodies float back to the surface. Yes, they learned this the hard way. They’re also designed that way due to a mixture of French and Spanish tradition but the whole water-table thing is much cooler to think about. So all of their cemeteries have casket-shaped vaults to hold their dead. Silly me, I had assumed that there was one body per structure but the tour taught me otherwise. Apparently these large stone caskets work like a kiln in the hot Louisiana summers and will turn any body and casket combination to complete dust within a year. So there’s a law that states you can’t open the vault for a year and a day after a body is placed inside but once that time has passed, it’s open season to put more dead inside. They basically scoop up all the ashes left from the previous inhabitant and place them in a bag, then shove it to the back and put in a new coffin. These vaults are typically family-owned so you wouldn’t be spending eternity with a bunch of strangers but you would be in awfully close quarters with everyone else. To be honest, I think this is fascinating and very economical way to save space and honor the dead.

RIP Nick

RIP Nick

One of the first tombs we saw had family members from the early 1800’s mixed with someone from 2011 so people are still being buried there to this day. In fact, Nicholas Cage recently purchased himself a tomb here and his is shaped like a pyramid. Why? Because he’s Nicholas Cage. We got to see that in addition to the place there they filmed the acid scene in Easy Rider, plus we visited the family tomb where Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau is reportedly buried. There’s a lot of history and even quit a few hauntings associated with this cemetery and it was pretty much the coolest thing we did that entire day. And yes, that includes the food and booze on Bourbon St. All of the tombs sink a tiny bit each year and there are some that only have the very tops visible as they’ve basically sunk so far into the ground that they’ve almost disappeared. Seeing all of the ruins amongst those still being opened today was pretty surreal and if the plots weren’t so stupidly expensive I would consider spending eternity there as well. Of course, I guess if I somehow find and marry Nicholas Cage I’d still have a shot at this but then I’d have to spend time finding and marrying Nicholas Cage. Pass. But at least I know where to find him in the afterlife!

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Annie Get Your Gun

December 2, 2014 at 9:29 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I had a super great trip down to Louisiana for our annual Deep-Fried-Southern-Thanksgiving (complete with a turkey stuffed with shrimp etouffee). I spent a good deal of time visiting my family and the cousins took a day trip into New Orleans, where we took a horse-drawn carriage ride tour of the city – I’ll be writing about that another day this week because it was so awesome it deserves its own post. Some of the other awesome things from the trip included eating a Schlotzsky’s sandwich both times I was in the Houston airport (because this delicious restaurant no longer serves any area anywhere near me, the jerks), cooking s’mores around a bonfire, dying my hair with my cousins after having a little bit of wine and of course, shooting my great-grandmother’s old rifle. I never got to meet this woman as she passed before I was born but she was a tough old broad known as Miss Bessie to just about everyone. Apparently she used to shoot turtles and snakes to keep them out of her yard (and probably put them into a dinner dish) and the gun has been passed down in the family. It currently belongs to my dad, who took me out to the bayou on some family property so I could shoot for the first time since I was a senior in high school.

The leaves feared me.

30 seconds later I was crying in the truck after my battle with the ants.

Surprisingly, I was a fairly decent shot. I didn’t want to aim at anything that was alive so I marked leaves and large sticks and had a strong accuracy with everything I shot. Which was extra surprising since it was all moving in the current of the water – even my dad was legitimately impressed. I shot my dad’s handgun after going through all the bullets we had for the rifle and I did NOT like that nearly as much. It was incredibly loud (my ears rang for a while) and was so much more powerful that I had a harder time with my accuracy. That rifle though – that I could (and did) get behind. Unfortunately, after I took my first few shots my feet started to feel the burn and that’s when I realized that my dumb ass had planted myself right on a pile of fire ants – while wearing sandals. It’s a small miracle that I didn’t shoot off a toe in my scurry to get away from the biting bastards. I eventually wiped myself clear of the little devils and found another place to stand but the damage was done – my feet still have bite marks on them. Oh well, at least I didn’t lay down in the pile while pretending to be a sniper.

After our shoot-fest, my dad and I walked through a cemetery where some old family members are buried. Some of the tombstones are hundreds of years old and it was pretty interesting to walk through everyone, though it was a bit strange to see my last name on so many headstones. Thinking back, I think I spent the majority of my trip down South firing guns, walking in cemeteries and wandering through Wal-Mart (which happened to be the only store open in the small town I was in). I guess I really am a Southern girl at heart!

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